Cambridge Deerfield Players Theater
Cambridge Historic School Gym
213 S. St., Cambridge
Tickets: At the door and at cdplayerstheater.com
Friday and Saturday, July 12 and 13, 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 14, 2 p.m. matinee
Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20, 7 p.m.
Sunday, July 21, 2 p.m. matinee
Peter Pan Jr.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 22, 23 and 24, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 24, 11 a.m. matinee
Sunday, Aug. 25, 2 p.m. matinee
Cambridge Deerfield Players Theater will stage two productions this summer at the Cambridge Historical School, 213 S. St. The adult-cast show, July 12-14 and July 19-21, will be “Mary Poppins.” The children’s cast show, Aug. 22-25, will be “Peter Pan Jr.”
Four of the organization’s leaders – Virginia Becker, co-director of “Mary Poppins” and costume director for both productions; Judy Brandt, founder of CD Players and director of “Peter Pan Jr.”; Deanne Herrling, president of CD Players and co-director of “Mary Poppins,”; and Betsy Bamlett, a CD Players board member, the group's music director and co-director of “Mary Poppins,” spoke recently about this year’s shows and the past and future of CD Players.
Q: Picking the shows for each summer is a process. How did you settle on the 2019 productions?
Virginia: We picked “Mary Poppins” because it’s a favorite for families. It has a large cast of all different ages, perfect for community theater. We thought the music was iconic.
Betsy: (Mary Poppins) is fun and everybody knows it. They feel more involved because it’s something they already know.
Q: This year, Judy passed on the reins of the adult show but will remain director of the children’s show. How has that transition gone?
Judy: It was really hard for me, but health reasons forced me to step down. I have tried my best to stay away so they can do it their way.
Virginia: We’re just happy that Judy’s still doing the kids’ show. She’s the person that started CD players. We’re just riding on her coattails.
Betsy: She just has this talent to bring out so much from them, to show the kids that there’s so much more you can do.
Virginia: Judy Brandt is the best director I have ever worked with. She’s very positive, she’s organized, she doesn’t make anyone feel like their voice doesn’t count.
Deanne: We’ve learned a lot from her over the years. We would be having a much harder time now trying to do this first show, if we didn’t have her.
Virginia: To be able to carry on with the adult show -- so that adults in the community can have opportunities to sing and dance, make fools of themselves on stage -- is really precious to me. Having worked with Judy the last six summers, it’s been something that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s a learning process and you keep learning and trying things out until it fits. It’s a lot of visualizing and drawing and talking and thinking through how the actors are going to work on the set and how the set is going to be made on a small stage and how the props are going to fit in the wings.
Q: Tell us about the progress toward “Mary Poppins.”
Deanne: Betsy’s been working with the groups of leads on the music and starting to bring in other groups like the chimney sweeps or the bank clerks and to work with them on the music. In June, we bring in choreography.
Virginia: This year is unique, in that we have double-cast our leads. We had so many good people coming out for leads, we wanted to include as many people as we could. We have two people for Mr. and Mrs. Banks and two Mary Poppins and two Berts and two sets of the children. That’s exciting and a bit daunting.
Q: Tell us more about the summer children’s shows, which Judy began in 2015 with “Willy Wonka Jr.”
Judy: The community theater shows got to be so big that I thought, "Gee, wouldn’t it be fun to add a kids’ show."
Deanne: That kids show was a dream of hers. She did her first children's show, “Willy Wonka,” and it was such a hit. Thirty-some kids came out. It just took off like wildfire. The cast doubled for the next year.
Virginia: We used to have a lot of the kids as part of our community shows, but they’d be in only a few scenes. Maybe one or two of them would have a role, but a minor role. Judy wanted the kids to continue to learn about theater and to have a lifetime enjoyment of theater and a chance to have lead roles.
Judy: The kids show fosters discipline. They have to dance and sing and memorize those scripts.
Virginia: They go from not knowing even where to stand on stage to putting together a whole production. They learn to be patient and watch what’s going on, and they yearn to have bigger roles every year. The cast has grown every year. We had 78 last year. All their aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas come. The kids shows have brought CD Players into the forefront again.
Q: How does CD Players fit into the broader arts context of Cambridge?
Virginia: There are a lot of visual arts in town - pottery, painting, fiber arts, knitting, quilting. The Arts Council does art workshops and concerts in the park. But in terms of music, besides the bands they bring in, we’re kind of it. Judy is the director of the local women’s chorus and used to be the director of the men’s chorus. She’s sort of the person that keeps all the music going in town.
Deanne: What is art really? Art is painting, it’s pottery, it’s music, it’s drama, it’s theater. It's lots and lots of things. And so, our piece is the entertainment part, the music, the dancing, the theater portion of it. There’s nothing else here that has what we can offer.
Deanne: The last couple of years, we’ve been branching out into the haunted house and the dances and the singing in the park. We’re trying to open up CD Players. “Oh, they put on shows.” We do a lot more things.
Q: What is your future vision for CD Players, including continued use of the historic school space?
Virginia: I think we’ve looked at, talked about, other venues. Right now, we’re working on a pretty small stage. If there were a fine arts center in town, that would be great.
Deanne: The gym, having the curved ceiling, has incredible acoustics and a wonderful small stage that we’ve been able to enhance and bring back to life. I think we’ve gotten very attached to the old girl. It’s got such a great history. In a perfect world, it would be great to have a brand new performing arts center with the staging and the lighting and the space. But for a small community, we’re very thankful to be able to lease the space. And we’ve made great use out of every inch of it.